SEYMOUR – The mission is not accomplished yet, but the Greeneville girls basketball team is right back where it wants to be after a dominant performance on Saturday night in the Class 3A State Sectionals.
The Lady Devils did just about everything right against a Seymour squad that had been cruising through the postseason on the way 68-43 win, and now they will be making back-to-back trips to the Class 3A State Tournament.
“I thought we played like we wanted to go to the Glass House,” Greeneville coach Annette Watts said. “I feel like we played with five seniors that were on a mission tonight. Nothing surprises me with this bunch, I know they are going to give it all they have.”
Defense is what made the difference for Greeneville on Saturday, as the Lady Devils’ relentless pressure eventually wore down the Lady Eagles on the way to the 25-point victory.
The highlight of that defensive effort was the clamp Anna Shaw was able to put on Seymour star guard Caiden Russell. She held the Lady Eagles’ point guard to just three points in the first half and nine points in the game, but more importantly the pressure she kept on the ball made it hard for the Lady Eagles to find any sort of rhythm on offense.
“We were talking on defense and we knew our matchup. We knew who the shooters were and we were helping on them,” Shaw said. “I knew I had to stop (Russell) before she got to half court so that she didn’t have time to think about what she was going to do. It was all about putting pressure on her before they could get into their offense.”
Watts sprang the full-court press on the Lady Eagles a couple of minutes into the contest and it caught their opponents by surprise. After first struggling to inbound the ball on the ball from the baseline when Watts turned on the pressure Seymour was forced to call a timeout. Out of that break Shaw got in Russell’s face and forced a bad pass. Chloe Marsh made the error costly by snatching the loose ball and taking off for what turned into a three-point play and a 7-2 Lady Devils lead.
Bailey McCoy kept the Lady Eagles around early with a three-pointer from the right side and an old-fashioned-three-point play that knotted things at 9-9, with 3:36 left in the first quarter.
Lauren Bailey then gave Greeneville the lead for good when she jumped a pass at the opposite three-point line and ran away from Seymour for a lay in.
Bailey was a menace in the passing lanes on Saturday as she picked off passes all over the floor, and most of them quickly turned into Greeneville baskets.
“I felt like on defense we were way more aggressive tonight,” Bailey, a Miss Basketball finalist, said. “We know that this time of year it’s about stopping the other team from scoring. We have worked on our help-side a lot, and making sure we know where we are supposed to be. We work on going to ball, not the person, every day in practice. I think you saw that in the game tonight.”
With 1:05 left in the first period a skilled sideline lob by Bailey found Marsh on the backside for an wide open lay in. Next it was a steal by Shaw that set up Marsh for two points in transition.
Bailey then closed the first quarter with a triple that put Greeneville in front 20-12.
Kyla Jobe came off the bench to score the first five points of the second quarter for Greeneville to push the advantage to 25-12.
Seymour got three-pointers from McCoy and Brielle Turner, but Bailey broke the streak with a stutter step that shook Russel on her way to the rim.
Russell’s only field goal of the first half cut Greeneville’s lead to 31-26 with 2:34 left in the second quarter, but the Lady Devils were able to take a 34-26 advantage into halftime.
The second half started with Lindy Carter putting back her own miss for the Lady Devils. Before the ball made it back to Seymour’s end of the floor Bailey stole possession and went back to the bucket for an easy layup and 38-26 lead.
Greeneville held a double-digit lead the rest of the night.
Turnovers continued to turn into points for the Lady Devils as Bailey jumped another pass before turning it into a breakaway layup. Next Shaw picked a pocket at midcourt and set up Bailey for a transition triple that pushed Greeneville’s lead to 45-30 with 5:46 still to play in the third quarter.
The third quarter ended with Jobe pivoting on the baseline and finding Tambryn Ellenburg for a three-pointer that gave the Lady Devils a 56-38 lead.
In the fourth quarter Greeneville’s defensive focus showed no lapses as they only gave up five points to make sure their trip to Murfreesboro was securely in hand.
On offense most of the damage was done at the free-throw line, a spot on the court that caused a lot of frustration earlier in the week for Greeneville.
On Monday in the Region 1-3A semifinals against Cocke County Greeneville started the fourth quarter 1-for-8 at the stripe which forced them to go to overtime against the Lady Red. On Saturday the Lady Devils started the fourth quarter 7-for-8 from the line, and turned that into 10-for-14 performance that put the game away.
Bailey led Greeneville on offense with 19 points, Jobe scored 16 and Marsh added 15.
Jaden Cumming scored 14 points for Seymour while McCoy put in 11.
Greeneville will begin the Class 3A State Tournament at 10 a.m. central time on Tuesday against Livingston Academy at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.
"It's a good feeling to be going back to state. I think we are really confident right now, and we have seven people playing really good right now," Bailey said. "I think last year we were just figuring out how to get there. This year I think we are more prepared for that environment and atmosphere."
Greeneville 20 14 22 12 68
Seymour 12 14 12 5 43
Greeneville: Bailey 19, Jobe 16, Marsh 15, Shaw 7, Carter 6, Ellenburg 3, Martin 2
Seymour: Cummings 14, B McCoy 11, Russell 9, Turner 5, C McCoy 4